Ireland returned to winning ways in the 2021 Six Nations with a 23 – 30 victory against Italy at Cardiff Arms Park on Wednesday afternoon.
Eoin de Buitléar and George Saunderson crossed in the first half to keep Ireland in the hunt before a brace from Alex Kendellen, and a couple of Nathan Doak penalties, pushed Ireland clear in a dominant second half performance.
Italy (23) 23
TRY: Simone Gesi, Tommaso di Bartolomeo, Leonardo Marin
CON: Leonardo Marin
PEN: Leonardo Marin (2)
Ireland (12) 30
TRY: Eoin de Buitléar, George Saunderson, Alex Kendellen (2)
CON: Nathan Doak 2
PEN: Nathan Doak 2
Ireland started the game in in a determined mood with de Buitléar crashing over after 3 minutes for an unconverted try before Italy got their hands on the ball.
Ireland enjoyed all the possession during the opening exchanges before an attempted chip by James Humphreys was charged down by Simone Gesi who turned on the after burners to outstrip the defence and score an equalising try on 6 minutes.
A high tackle by Jude Postlethwaite led to a yellow card for the Ulster youngster and Italy took advantage with Tommaso di Bartolomeo rumbling over off the back of a line out drive. The conversion was missed leaving Italy in front 10 – 5 after 12 minutes.
The lead didn’t last long as a fumbled restart from the Italians led to Saunderson crashing over under the posts and Doak’s conversion put Ireland in front 10 – 12 on the 15th minute.
However, the scoring continued in a frantic first quarter as Leonardo Marin took advantage of the missing Postlethwaite to slice through the Ireland midfield for Italy’s third which he converted himself on the 18th minute to take the score to 15 – 12 in the Italians’ favour.
Things settled somewhat in the second quarter but Italy looked to be containing the Ireland attack fairly comfortably and a couple of penalties from the boot of Marin pushed the score along to 26 – 12 at the break.
Ulster’s Humphreys and Conor Rankin were replaced at the break by Cathal Forde and Ben Moxham as Ireland looked for back line stability. Forde had an immediate impact punching the ball up twice before Kendellen found the line in a bristling start to the second half.
Doak converted and he stepped up to land a penalty 6 minutes later after Italy’s captain Luca Andreani was yellow carded after some professional dwelling on the ball. Ireland had fully reverted to their harass, ruck and reload game and they looked more comfortable as another bruising effort from the forwards saw Kendellen cross for his second while Italy were down to 14. No conversion but Ireland were back in front 23 – 27 on the 55th minute.
Ireland continued to harass and Italy lost their way a late penalty from Doak sealing the game to give Ireland a 23 – 30 win.
ITALY: Lorenzo Pani, Flavio Pio Vaccari, Tommaso Menoncello, Filippo Drago, Simone Gesi, Leonardo Marin, Manfredi Albanese, Luca Rizzoli, Thomas Di Bartolomeo, Ion Neculai, Giacomo Ferrari, Nicola Piantella, Luca Andreani (C), Ross Micheal Vintcent, Lorenzo Cannone. Replacements: Matteo Baldelli, Mirco Spanish, Muhamed Hasa, Fabrizio Boschetti, Giovanni Cenedese, Alessandro Garbisi, Mattia Ferrarin, Fabio Schiabel, Andrea Angelone, Giulio Marucchini, Michele Brighetti.
IRELAND: Jamie Osborne, Conor Rankin, Jude Postlethwaite, Ben Carson, Chay Mullins, James Humphreys, Nathan Doak, George Saunderson, Eoin de Buitléar, Sam Illo, Mark Morrissey, Harry Sheridan, Alex Soroka, Alex Kendellen (C), Daniel Okeke. Replacements: Ronan Loughnane, Jack Boyle, Liam Bishop, Fearghail O’Donoghue, Jack Kelleher, Conor McKee, Cathal Forde, Josh O’Connor, Reuben Crothers, Levi Vaughan, Ben Moxham
Ireland have tried to play a more expansive game in their last two outings, the seniors against Japan and the U20’s against Italy. Unfortunately they have given up at half time in both games, reverting to the harass, ruck and reload game that will continue to take it’s toll on players bodies and health as bigger tackles and physical attrition become the only way to win games.
We’ve updated the stats below, after what was a mixed game for the Ulster lads.
Humphreys and Rankin were off the pace in the first half and were subbed at half time as Ireland changed tactics.
Doak and Harry Sheridan contributed pretty much as expected though Sheridan’s carry and tackle stats were a little down on his exceedingly high standards. Saunderson, Postlethwaite and Ben Carson all performed well though I’d have liked to have seen more of the centre paring with ball in hand.
Moxham came on in the second half to shore up defence, but again he didn’t see much ball and the industrious Reuben Crothers is becoming quite the impact sub with another high octane stint in the second half.
Ireland will battle it out with France on Tuesday 13th for second place following England’s big win against Wales.
Though England are theoretically catchable by Ireland it would take England to lose and a 30 point points swing, over the two matches, in Ireland’s favour which I would guess is unlikely.